How to choose where to stay in Havana, Cuba
So you’ve booked your flights to Cuba and now it’s time to decide where to stay! Like any great capital city, Havana has a huge range of accommodation options. There are four key areas which you might like to consider for staying in Havana.
What are the pros and cons of each different area of Havana?
Read on to make a decision about where to stay in Havana when you visit Cuba, whether you are taking a private guided tour or a solo trip! Here is our quick and easy-to-follow guide to Havana’s neighbourhoods.
1. La Habana Vieja / Old Havana
Best for: immersing yourself in the heart and soul of Havana
Encircled by the Bay of Havana and the Malecon on one side and the elegant Prado street on the other, with the impressive El Capitolio building towering over everything. This is La Habana Vieja – or Old Havana. This is the historical centre of Havana and has the highest concentration of tourist attractions in the city.
Why stay in Old Havana?
- Proximity to key sights and attractions: All five historic plazas of Havana are within a short walk, as are many museums, art galleries and the Gran Teatro de la Habana.
- High-end, elegant hotels. Take the elevator to the roof terrace of the Manzana Kempinski, or the Iberostar Parque Central, for world class views of the city. Coming soon, the Sol Hotel Prado y Malecon is sure to have the best views of all.
- A wide range of dining options in atmospheric settings: the terrace of Ivan y Justo; the chic rooftop at En Del Frente, the patio seating of Trattoria Cinco Esquinas.
- Photogenic back streets. Those iconic snaps of vintage cars against a backdrop of crumbling buildings and fluttering flags? They were all taken here (see above!)
- Stunning views along the Malecón . Enjoy a serenade from local musicians and enjoy one of the best views in the Caribbean.
And why not? If you are looking peace and quiet, this might not be your spot. It’s the busiest area of the city, especially in the afternoons when the tourist crowds and cruise ship hordes are at large.
2. Centro / Central Havana
Best for: getting a sense of the lifestyle of local Cuban people
The unmissable edifice of the Hospital Clínico Quirúrigo looms over Central Havana, known as Centro. Sandwiched in between Old Havana and Vedado, this densely-populated residential district is full of crumbling apartment buildings, aging department stores and occasional architectural gems. It’s definitely not pretty; if this was anywhere but Cuba, perhaps it wouldn’t feel safe. But if you can put up with a few stares as you wander down a residential street, or into a local paladar, you’ll be fine.
Why stay in Centro Havana?
- Great access to the iconic Malecón, where you can stroll along with the locals each evening.
- Glimpses of authentic living conditions in the city, and a sense of what everyday life is like for ordinary Habaneros.
- Fantastic food opportunities! There are basic cafes and street food – try Algarabía for cheap and cheerful Cuban food. It’s also great for people watching. You will also find some of the most renowned restaurants in Havana here, including La Guarida and San Cristóbal (where the Obamas dined in 2016).
- A room with a view: some of the most outstanding views of the Malecón can be found from the windows of the apartment buildings which line the seafront, and the colonial interiors are pretty impressive too. So make sure any casa you book here has a view of the ocean.
- A great ‘middle ground’ location: you are within 20 minutes’ walk of Old Havana; it’s a similar length stroll to Vedado.
And why not? If you have mobility issues this area might not suit you – see note about walking distances above. As well as that, many of the apartment buildings have many stairs and ancient (as in, not working) elevators. And if you want to stroll out of your front door directly into the nightlife and glamour of Havana, this probably isn’t your area either.
3. Vedado District, Havana
Best for: discovering the energy of modern Havana alongside the ghosts of its 1950s heyday.
Vedado is the large district to the west of Old Havana and Centro. It was developed under heavy American influence, and it shows – everything is bigger, and wider than in Old Havana. The architecture is no less fascinating, with modernist skyscrapers and retro signage everywhere you look.
Choose Vedado if these are your top priorities for visiting Havana:
- Architecture! Many of Havana’s most recognisable skyline shapes are here: Hotel Nacional de Cuba, El Edificio Focsa and Hotel Habana Libre. As well as that, some of the most impressive colonial style mansions and buildings are here.
- A chance to sample modern Havana nightlife. Some of the most stylish places for a night out are situated here, from the Jazz clubs of La Rampa (Calle 23) to the Fábrica de Arte Cubano: a ‘must-visit’ for any trip to Havana.
- More great restaurants and a chance to dine with the locals. There are plenty of choices here, and Cubans and tourists mingle a lot more.
- The Malecón at Calle 23 – stroll here in the evening to see the locals out in force, dancing, chatting and enjoying the sea breeze.
- Leafy, residential streets and pleasantly laid-out parks and gardens. When you a need a break from the hustle and bustle, this can be the place. Spot some unusual quirks too: Parque John Lennon, for example, features a bronze statue of its namesake.
And why not? If you are only in Havana for a short time, you might find that the sights in Vedado are more spaced out and that it’s harder to get around. It’s a 45 minute walk from here into Old Havana and the centre of the tourist action.
4. Miramar, Havana
Best for: treating yourself with a taste of Havana’s luxury lifestyle
West of Vedado, across the river and about 12km from Old Havana is the neighbourhood of Miramar. The elegant 5th Avenue slices through wide streets lined with embassies and colonial homes. This is one of the most affluent areas of the city – and it shows!
Why stay in Miramar, Havana?
- A wealth of dining and nightlife options: elegant restaurants with stunning locations; numerous cafes and ice cream parlours; chic bakeries; upscale bars as well as some of Havana’s best nightclubs and dance venues: this is a taste of what Havana could become if everyone had a lot more cash to splash.
- Spectacular sunset-watching opportunities from small, rocky beaches which are dotted along 1st avenue. Try sunset cocktails at Siete Días or dinner at Vistamar.
- The best boutique shopping outside Old Havana – try Alma for beautiful handmade Cuban souvenirs and gifts.
- First class pampering at bargain prices. This area has a scattering of well-run, appealing health clubs. There are some great salons and day spas too, where treatments are very reasonable compared to western prices. Try Vida Spa for great facials and massages.
- Great hotels (and more on the way). Melia Habana, for example, is situated right on the rocky shore and has one of the biggest pools you’ll find outside of the beach resorts.
And why not? Situated about twenty minutes’ taxi ride from Old Havana, Miramar can feel quite far out of the main city. If you are visiting for the first time, or are more interested in the culture and history of Havana, this area might feel a bit isolated.
Book a private guided tour of Cuba and make your accommodation choices with expert local help!
Drop us an email if you need accommodation advice. We book Casa Particular accommodation as part of our private guided tours, and are always happy to make recommendations.